GHOST usher in a new front­man and a new dark age on plague-tas­tic fourth al­bum. Watch out for gra­tu­itous sax­o­phones…

Kerrang! (UK) - - Reviews -

For all Ghost’s ob­ses­sion with the dark side, they’ve al­ways given the im­pres­sion of tongues wedged firmly in cheeks. Their sa­tanic shenani­gans have largely of­fered B-movie fun and es­capism wrapped in supremely in­fec­tious, doom-lite songs. If you caught their spec­tac­u­lar set head­lin­ing Blood­stock last year, you’ll prob­a­bly re­call, among the enor­mous stage show and gen­uinely im­pres­sive lev­els of show­man­ship on dis­play, there were also bad jokes and a hokey ac­cent from Papa Emer­i­tus III that was more Sesame Street’s Count von Count than Tran­syl­va­nia’s most feared noc­tur­nal blood­sucker.

But that Papa has now been supplanted, with the creep­ily de­crepit Papa Zero ush­er­ing in a new era, along­side a sort-of new front­man in the com­par­a­tively thrust­ing Car­di­nal Copia. That process in it­self has re­sulted in a com­plex sto­ry­line that’s not the eas­i­est to keep track of, but it does give Ghost the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to rein­vent them­selves – and this time out, they’re tak­ing us into a much darker world than the one they pre­vi­ously in­hab­ited.

The spooky in­tro of Ashes sets the scene, with chil­dren recit­ing Ring A Ring O’ Roses over an omi­nous dron­ing buzz. As this gives way to the Black Death-themed Rats, it seems like busi­ness as usual. But closer at­ten­tion re­veals the song to be both al­le­gor­i­cal and timely. ‘In times of tur­moil, in times like these / Be­lief’s con­ta­gious, spread­ing dis­ease,’ croons the Car­di­nal, as the Name­less Ghouls build a metal struc­ture so pol­ished you could see your own pus­tu­lat­ing buboes in it. There’s a harsher bite em­bed­ded in the cho­rus, how­ever, to go with the grit­tier theme, which por­trays de­struc­tive ide­olo­gies in the cur­rent cultural and po­lit­i­cal land­scape as a mod­ern-day plague.

You might not think you could get any more in­fec­tious than a song about plague rats, but that’s only un­til you hear Dance Macabre. If Square Ham­mer, from the Popes­tar EP, smashed Kiss’ dis­corock an­them I Was Made For Lovin’ You into shards you could cut your­self on, it’d sound like this.

Else­where, Faith fol­lows a big beat and tum­bling gui­tar leads into an­other flaw­less melody and more mus­ings on the na­ture of be­lief, be­fore See The Light takes the ba­ton for a stately march, with Car­di­nal Copia declar­ing, ‘Ev­ery day that you feed me with hate I grow stronger.’ Again the lyrics are open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion, but they mix a bit­ter taste into an Alice In Won­der­land ref­er­ence with­out name-check­ing Lu­cifer once. He does make a brief appearance in the fan­tas­tic and fa­tal­is­tic Pro Me­mo­ria, but even here, it’s a cameo, with the Grim Reaper as the real star of the show.

As with all Ghost al­bums so far, Pre­quelle is rel­a­tively brief. With one of its 10 tracks be­ing the in­tro and two be­ing in­stru­men­tals, it’s re­ally down to the bones here. Said vo­cal­free tunes are ace, with Mi­asma ex­plod­ing into the best sax­o­phone solo you’ll hear in 2018, and Hel­vetes­fön­ster rem­i­nis­cent in parts of The Ea­gles’ psych-rock clas­sic Jour­ney Of The Sor­cerer (or the theme from The Hitch­hiker’s Guide To The Gal­axy, as it’s now more com­monly known).

From gritty so­cial com­men­tary to ’80s metal cheese and retro-fu­tur­is­tic space rock, this is an al­bum that sees Ghost spread­ing their dark wings. A new age is truly upon us, so let the Ghouls be your guide. PAUL TRAVERS

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